Polwarth Parish Church and charity partner buy boat for spiritual and educational pursuits

A Scottish church and a charity have teamed up to buy a 60 foot canal boat for spiritual and educational pursuits which will serve as a safe space to gather, socialise and improve wellbeing and community cohesion.
The boat is jointly owned by Polwarth Parish Church and People Know How, a social innovation charity that addresses social issues and seeks to empower individuals and organisations to realise their true potential.The boat is jointly owned by Polwarth Parish Church and People Know How, a social innovation charity that addresses social issues and seeks to empower individuals and organisations to realise their true potential.
The boat is jointly owned by Polwarth Parish Church and People Know How, a social innovation charity that addresses social issues and seeks to empower individuals and organisations to realise their true potential.

The boat, named All Aboard, is jointly owned by Polwarth Parish Church and People Know How, a social innovation charity that addresses social issues and seeks to empower individuals and organisations to realise their true potential.

It is currently being built by The New & Used Boat Company in Droitwich in Worcestershire and expected to be craned into the Union Canal and moored outside the church in April.

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The yellow, white and blue wide-beam canal boat has been custom designed inside with a galley kitchen, toilet, flexible social space and is wheelchair accessible.

Rev Jack Holt said the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has exacerbated Scotland’s mental health crisis and that he hoped that sailing up and down the canal would be a “calming experience.”Rev Jack Holt said the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has exacerbated Scotland’s mental health crisis and that he hoped that sailing up and down the canal would be a “calming experience.”
Rev Jack Holt said the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has exacerbated Scotland’s mental health crisis and that he hoped that sailing up and down the canal would be a “calming experience.”

The congregation has been fundraising to buy the £89,000 boat for years but the project took off when People Know How officially got involved in June 2019 and secured £33,785 for the project from the Church of Scotland’s Go For It fund.

The partners are currently seeking to recruit a full-time “All Aboard Co-ordinator” who will be responsible for the day to day management of the project and canal boat.

The boat will undergo stringent tests and should be fully operational by the summer if Covid-19 restrictions allow which means it could be potentially used as an alternative to the church building for wedding ceremonies.

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Minister, Rev Jack Holt, said the congregation has been working towards buying a vessel to sail up and down the canal, which connects Edinburgh to Falkirk, for nearly a decade.

The congregation proposed the idea of a canal boat almost a decade agoThe congregation proposed the idea of a canal boat almost a decade ago
The congregation proposed the idea of a canal boat almost a decade ago

“When two of our members, Maureen and Sheena Bowman, suggested in 2011 that the church should get a boat, everyone thought that was a pipe dream.

“But I was convinced it was possible and I am delighted that the vision has come to reality and we can start to plan how it can be used by us and other churches from different denominations in the future,” Mr Holt said,

“We decided on a wide-beam boat to provide the maximum amount of uncluttered interior space which would be accessible by all.

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"The exterior colour reflects the branding of the All Aboard project, which has been designed to highlight the importance of blue and green spaces.

“It will be eye catching and we want people to see it and recognise it as a resource to be used by the community.”

He added that it will be used by the charity during the week and the church in the evenings and weekends as a “major” part of mission outreach work.

Glenn Liddall, chief executive and founder of People Know How, said: “We're over the moon that we have been able to purchase this boat and can't wait to launch her in the Union Canal and welcome people All Aboard.”

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A pilot programme in 2019 was run jointly by People Know How and Polwarth Parish Church and was funded by a grant from Go For It.

Mr Liddall said: “The pilot tested and demonstrated the importance of our aims to provide a space for wellbeing and community cohesion and the response we received from participants was overwhelmingly positive.

“We have been building our learning, listening to the community and fundraising towards the purchase of our own boat.”

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